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Rope Care Tips


by Editor

December 29, 2001

The rope is the most important piece of equipment for most serious rockclimbers. Modern climbing ropes are extremely reliable. Made from nylon, they are superior to natural blends in strength, elasticity, and durability. Modern ropes are kernmantle, with a woven nylon sheath over a braided core. Although there have been cases of ropes being cut on sharp edges or sliced by falling rocks, a modern climbing rope in good condition will not break, no matter how hard the fall.

To make sure that your rope stays in prime condition there are several things to remember to make sure that your lifeline will not be compromised. First of all, never step on your rope. Rock particles and other debris from your shoes could work through the sheath and begin to tear the cords. Also stepping on the rope grinds it into the ground causing scraping damage before you even use it. Make sure you never leave your rope lying on the ground and don't let it get under foot when you are climbing.

Be selfish with your rope. Do not loan it to anyone. You are the only one you can trust to take care of it. Anything that happens to your rope while it is not in your possession could weaken it and put you in danger the next time you use it. For the same reason, never buy a used rope. You don't know what the previous owner may have done with it or why he is selling it.

Do not expose your rope to unnecessary amounts of sunlight. UV rays are the single most damaging threat to the security of your rope. The more time it spends in direct sunlight, the faster it will deteriorate. When not in use, store your rope in a cool, dry, shady place.

Do not expose your rope to foreign substances. Although hydrocarbon solvents such as alcohol and gasoline do not effect nylon chemically, they could make it more flammable, especially at times when the rope is exposed to large amounts of friction. Battery acids and other corrosives must be kept away from your rope at all costs.

After even moderate use your rope will get dirty. To clean it, machine wash in cold or warm water with mild soap. Make sure to use the delicate cycle and rinse twice to make sure no soap stays in the threads. Do not put it in the dryer. Instead, hang it in a shady place or lay it out to let the water evaporate naturally. It normally takes two days to dry out completely.

Inspect your rope frequently. To check for frays and other damage, fold the rope between your fingers and work it from one end to the other keeping watch for any sign of irregularity.

A rope should never be kept in use for more than four years, even if used only rarely. For weekend use, retire your rope after two years. For multi-fall use, change ropes after three months of constant use or a year of part-time use. After a long, severe fall, the rope should be retired immediately.

By following these guidelines you can keep your rope in top condition and help ensure your own safety in rockclimbing.

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